From 4 May 2021 | to 31 August 2021

The Announcing Angel attribuited to Leonardo da Vinci and the Madonna of Childbirth in the manner of Piero della Francesca

Curated by Oreste Ruggiero and Ilaria Boncompagni

Room XI

The main room of the first floor of the Leo-Lev Exhibition Center is the setting for the art show An Unusual Annunciation, curated by Oreste Ruggiero, Ilaria Boncompagni and patronised by MIBACT, the Superintendence to Cultural Heritage Lucca and Massa Carrara, Archdiocese of Lucca, the Parish Church of San Gennaro in Lucchesia and promoted by Leo-Lev Center.

An Unusual Annunciation is an exhibition itinerary that leads to cultural and artistic heritage’s exploration of the Parish Church of San Gennaro in Lucchesia. In an only room – Room XI of the Leo-Lev Center – there are three important art work in a dialogue between them, from the church in the locality of the same name, a hamlet of Capannori.

The first, The Archangel Gabriel, is an extraordinary work in terracotta had already been attributed to Verrocchio’s School by Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti and then recognized by Carlo Pedretti as an early work by Leonardo da Vinci, considering it the largest of sculptures ascribed to the Renaissance Master.

Carlo Pedretti – he was considered one of the world’s leading experts on the life and works of Leonardo – in an episode of Superquark (1999), said that the Angel’s sculpture has distinguishing features of the Artist-Scientist: from the arm’s drape to the hairstyle, from the face to setting in the body that suggests “movement”.

Executed supposedly at the end of the fifteenth Century or at the beginning of the sixteenth Century and located in the Parish Church of San Gennaro, the Work of Art was seriously damaged in 1773 when – according to some documents – it fell to pieces after being hit by a staircase, during the ornaments for the co-patron San Cirillo’s feast. The restoration, coordinating by Oreste Ruggiero and financing by Leo-Lev Center, was carried out by Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence.

The second work is the Copy of Announcing Angel also created by Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence. A full-size replica of the Archangel Gabriel, executed with modeling mode and firings of clay, re-proposing the same pigments of the fifteenth-century original.

Lastly, the other rarity in the art show is Madonna of Childbirth from Parish Church of San Gennaro (anonymous artist), a  particularly mysterious sculpture in terracotta, being the only one of its kind in the world in terracotta, with a life-size approximately cm 1.68 (much more than normal compared to the typical woman’s representation of the 1400s) and for the strong reference to the topics and ways of Madonna of Childbirth by Piero della Francesca, in Monterchi.

Oreste Ruggiero writes in the publication Se Fosse un indice che è Leonardo … L’Arcangelo Gabriele e la Madonna del Parto: “Can be interesting to develop a comparison between elements of the dress which characterize the Madonna of Childbirth in San Gennaro and Madonna of Childbirth in Monterchi; especially regarding the same garment’s type, the geometric neckline, the buttonholes for ribbons that develop vertically, the large vertical almond shaped cuts to allow an adaption of garment to pregnancy and the pleats, like grooves of columns in the same garment”.

The Madonna of Childbirth’s sculpture was in such conditions that prevented the perception of overall and the particular preciousness that distinguish it. 

The restoration is being at the Leo-Lev Exhibition Center – elected “workshop” for the sculpture’s renovation – under the direction of Filippo Tattini, in collaboration of Iolanda Larenza, after a leading role for the recovery of Announcing Angel, on the occasion of restoration at Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence. 

Besides illustrating the restoration work, the exhibition intent of An Unusual Annunciation is to highlight how the Announcing Angel and The Madonna of Childbirth are inseparable between them,  as an archival documentation of 1646 describes the works placed one in front of the other as a sculpture group of the Annunciation; while Antonio Mazzarosa in La Terra di San Gennaro la sua Pieve e il suo Pievato, Note artistiche storiche, Memoria (1933) writes: “Two statues, natural size, in terracotta without showcase, one reduced into two pieces, but be recomposed (the Angel), the other with a hands mutilated (the Virgin Mary) […] Placed one in front of the other, represent the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary”.

In an only room, the Leo-Lev Exhibition Centre shows visitors the symbolic worth between the Angel and the Madonna gathered in An Unusual Annunciation, a sculptural group that the Archdiocese of Lucca, the Parish Church of San Gennaro, the Superintendence to Cultural Heritage Lucca and Massa Carrara, they’ll want to be placed together again, in dialogue witch each other, when the works return to the Parish Church of San Gennaro.

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